Here are to-dos that should help you make the most of a visit to the Grand Canyon.
Enjoying the scenery
▪ The Bright Angel Trail is the park’s premier hiking trail. The 7.8-mile journey down to the Colorado River at the canyon bottom, and 9.9 miles to Phantom Ranch, takes four to six hours to get down, and twice as long to climb back up (which is why hikers should spend a night at the bottom). In summer, the lower parts of the canyon are routinely hotter than 100 degrees, sometimes as high as 115. The easy option: At sunrise, hike down half a mile (just far enough to reach the trail’s second tunnel), then come back up for a big breakfast. www.lat.ms/1ae1LCX.
▪ Don’t dawdle on the way to Mather Point. It’s a gorgeous spot to catch a sunrise. Also, once the sun is up, the parking lot fills fast. Just about every canyon visitor comes here at some point — the main Visitor Center, the biggest bookstore and the bike rental operation are clustered here a short walk from the rim.
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▪ Even if you’re not going to hike it, check out the top part of the South Kaibab Trail. The switchbacks are dramatic, as is the view. The trail reaches the canyon bottom in 6.3 miles. But because it’s so steep and shade is so scarce, rangers recommend hikers go downhill on South Kaibab and come up on Bright Angel.
▪ Do not make the mistake of thinking you can drive to Mohave Point. This is one of several South Rim viewpoints closed to private cars. To get here, take one of the park’s free shuttle buses and enjoy the view of the river to the northwest. www.lat.ms/1aEiG2l.
▪ If you want a spot at the Bright Angel Lodge, book ahead. This landmark, built in 1935, includes 90 units, mostly lodge rooms (some share baths) and rustic cabins. The most coveted quarters: the Buckey O’Neill Cabin, built in the 1890s, which has separate bedroom and sitting room and rents for $426 a night. Lodge rooms for two run $89 with shared bath, $100 with private bath. Most cabins cost $128-$197. 9 N. Village Loop Drive, Grand Canyon Village. 928-638-2631; www.grandcanyonlodges.com.
▪ Consider staying (and dining) at El Tovar Hotel, a historic landmark from 1905 and the fanciest hotel on the South Rim, but be sure to ask about its recent renovations. The three-story, 78-unit lodging has plenty of log-cabin-meets-Craftsman style — and no elevators. Rooms for two cost $197-$321, suites $401-$489. Consider scheduling a lunch or dinner in the stately but rustic dining room. 1 Main St., Grand Canyon Village. 888-297-2757 or 928-638-2631; www.grandcanyonlodges.com.
▪ If all the South Rim lodgings are booked — which happens often — consider the 121-room Grand Hotel, located a mile outside the park and about eight miles from the South Rim. Rooms start at $199. The hotel’s Canyon Star Steakhouse serves breakfast, lunch and dinner in an enormous dining room done in modern ranch style. Breakfasts cost $8.95-$17.95. 149 Arizona 64, Tusayan. 888-634-7263 or 928-638-3333; www.grandcanyongrandhotel.com.
▪ For hearty Mexican food, try Plaza Bonita Family Mexican Restaurant. The tortilla soup alone will fill you up. This is a chain with many locations in Arizona. Dinners cost $10.95-$21.75. 352 Arizona Route 64, Tusayan. 928-638-8900; www.casabonitaaz.com.
▪ Try the Bright Angel Restaurant at Bright Angle Lodge. April through November, it starts serving breakfast at 6 a.m. For a quicker meal, head a few paces closer to the rim to the Bright Angel Fountain, open seasonally 11 a.m.-5 p.m. There you can get hot dogs and other snacks, and ice cream for dessert. Don’t let the long line scare you; it usually moves fast.
▪ The Yippee-Ei-O! Steakhouse boasts generous portions in a riotous dining room full of picnic tables and waiters in cowboy hats. Expect to hear half a dozen languages among your fellow diners (and see an automatic 15 percent tip on your bill). Main dishes run $13.95-$29.95. U.S. 180/64, Tusayan. 928-638-2780.